Indoor places, especially our homes, expose us to indoor pollution which could eventually result in major health problems. This paper will tackle the various sources of pollution in our indoor environment, the possible health effects they could have and steps people should take in order to assure good indoor air quality.
There are various sources of pollutants that are associated with Indoor Air Pollution (IAP):
Combustion sources e.g. oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet; products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; radon, pesticides and outdoor air pollution. (Publication 1)
Of specific concern among others are: “formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, naphthalene and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)” (SCHER 17). Once the sources emit particles or gases to the air, pollution could further be enhanced by insufficient ventilation, high temperature and humidity levels (Publications 1). Some effects could be seen immediately while others are more long term and are due to increased exposure.
Children, expectant mothers, the elderly and the convalescents are particularly likely to be affected because they spend most of their times indoors (SCHER 11). Effects like “irritation of eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue” (SCHER 21) are some of the immediate results which can be treated easily. Other effects by various sources include respiratory disorders like asthma, coughing, wheezing, irritation to upper and lower respiratory tracts; allergies, fatigue etc (SCHER 21). With the above health risks identified, solutions to having good indoor air quality should be undertaken.
Before the solutions are put in place, one should be able to fully establish that there is a problem with the air quality. Some important identification methods include: symptoms of the above health risks, location of sources of pollution, personal daily life and ventilation disorders e.g. stuffiness, presence of mold, moisture on windows or walls (Publications 1).
Once sources of pollution have been identified, it is more effective to deal with each specifically; however there are general agreeable methods that could be undertaken to enhance air quality. Improving ventilation in the homes (or any indoor place) and use of air cleaners which are responsible for “particle removal” (Publication 1).
For biological contaminants such as molds and mildew, controlling relative humidity is important; for combustion sources, exhaust fans, chimneys and furnaces are advisable in helping to reduce emission of particles; for organic chemicals such as paints, limiting use and exposure is essential; for formaldehyde whose source is mainly pressed wood, using “exterior-grade” products reduces exposure; for asbestos, if the material is not prone to disturbance, it should be left like that otherwise, experts should be called to deal with it (Publications 1).
Smoking of tobacco indoors is highly discouraged and building materials used should be those “certified to emit low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) should be used (NACA 1). In the case where the source is persistent and no amicable solution is present, reducing exposure is the best way of handling the situation.
With all these precautions taken and all other considerations put in place, one is ensured to have a home with good air quality and hence exposures to unnecessary health risks are also avoided.
NACA. Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollution. National Asthma Council Australia, 2011.Web. April 18, 2011
Publications. The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality. EPA Organization, 2011. Web. April 18, 2011
SCHER. Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks. Opinion on Risk Assessment on Indoor Air Quality, 2007. Web. April 18, 2011